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After smuggling fat cat on board a flight against the rules, Aeroflot customer faces cancellation of all bonus miles

Source: Meduza

The Russian airline Aeroflot has concluded its investigation into a passenger named Mikhail Galin and decided to cancel his membership in the airline’s Aeroflot Bonus loyalty program. Galin intentionally broke the company’s rules on transporting animals by bringing a cat with him on a flight from Moscow to Vladivostok whose weight was higher than the maximum set by Aeroflot’s rules. The airline also responded by annulling all of Galin’s free mines, a representative told the Moskva news agency.

Aeroflot’s regulations allow passengers to bring domesticated animals onboard with them if the total weight of any given animal and its carrier is no more than eight kilograms (17.64 pounds). Larger animals whose weight is up to 50 kilograms (110.23 lbs) may be transported in the checked baggage compartment.

During takeoff and landing as well as during periods of turbulence, animal carriers must remain underneath the seat in front of the passenger or at the passenger’s feet if they are to comply with Aeroflot’s rules. The carriers must also be secured using a safety belt.

Aeroflot told journalists that Galin had temporarily “replaced his cat, which weighed more than eight kilograms, with another, similar cat that weighed seven kilograms” in order to board his plane. Security camera footage confirmed that the cat Galin had with him immediately before boarding was not the same animal as the cat that had undergone registration. The passenger also removed his cat from its carrier during the flight, which Aeroflot’s rules do not permit. Airline representatives emphasized that they enforce a strict level of discipline at all stages of any flight with the aim of maintaining security.

On November 6, Mikhail Galin posted a detailed Facebook status describing how he had broken Aeroflot’s rules to bring his cat Viktor with him on his airplane. Galin first flew with Viktor from Riga to Moscow. In the Russian capital’s Sheremetyevo airport, the pair attempted to board a connecting flight to Vladivostok, but an airport employee stopped Viktor from continuing his journey. According to Galin, the cat had “eaten his way well beyond the permitted weight for carry-on travel” and reached a weight of 10 kilograms (22.05 pounds) in combination with his carrier.

Galin worried that Viktor would not survive an eight-hour flight in the checked baggage compartment because the cat had “already felt shitty from the pressure changes” on his Riga-Moscow connection. Rather than boarding the Vladivostok flight anyway, Galin delayed his departure and used Facebook to find a cat that looked like Viktor, “a miniature little kitty named Phoebe.” The savvy cat dad then used bonus miles to buy another ticket to Vladivostok. On the day of that flight, Galin arrived at the airport along with Phoebe’s owners, and Phoebe acted as Viktor’s body double to receive permission to fly. Galin was granted a boarding pass, at which point he switched the animals back and took off for Vladivostok with Viktor.

The rule-breaking passenger ultimately admitted to smuggling his cat on board, but only after the flight was over: “I was wrong in this situation regardless of my motives,” he wrote. Galin noted that a cat whose weight exceeds the allowed maximum may present a safety threat to passengers onboard a flight. He also emphasized that he had never overfed Viktor, saying the cat’s 8.3-kilogram heft was “primarily due to his breeding.”

Galin told the outlet Podyom that he had 370,000 bonus miles in hand through Aeroflot’s program until his loyalty membership was cancelled. “The law is harsh, but it’s the law. I broke the rules, and the airline has the right to take responsive measures. [In the future], I’ll be flying with an airline that’s convenient for me,” Viktor’s owner concluded.

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Report by Alexander Baklanov

Translation by Hilah Kohen